Letters of the Apocrypha: My unpublished letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - and take note of their observation about those who are “merely queer . . .”

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I checked on the status of this letter some weeks ago, and was told that it belonged to that rare breed that had to run by “the editors” before it ran. Well, that was weeks and weeks ago, as the crow flies. Patience is one thing, but when letters about last week’s presidential debate began appearing as quickly as folks could wear down their Crayolas and fax them in, well, all bets are off.

The term “Annals of the Repellant” title hasn’t been used much of late (was that a Paul Greenberg brainstorm?) but just to bring readers up to speed:

Writer Gore Vidal died. Somebody at the ADG well and truly despises Gore Vidal. They thought to make unsubtle references to his involvement with the film about the life of Caligula, and defended the honor of William F. Buckley at the same time. Oh, yeah, and the writer claimed some familiarity with folks who are “merely queer.”

A good time was had by all. And now, since chances are this letter won’t run in the ADG:

To the Editor,

Thanks to the guidance of the anonymous editorialist (Annals of the Repellant: The (not so) Great Pretender) of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansans interested in good literature need never cast their eyes in the direction of Gore Vidal, which must confuse the thousands of former high school students who have helped put on his play, Visit to a Small Planet over the years.

And yet, in the words of the bitter eloquence of the ADG writer. “You could no more stop watching him than you could maggots in a pile of rotting garbage.”

And what had the writer of The Best Man, one of the best plays about the American political process ever created, done to inspire this burst of magical writing in the middle of our week? This Nero without musical inclination, this Caligula without even the remnant of an empire? Did he actually have people killed?

It’s sort of hard to tell, actually, once you get through wading through the oblique references to the novels and screenplays he wrote - all without actually naming them, by the way.

This monster, this destroyer of public morals, this “repellent,” this descendant of Aaron Burr, about whom he wrote an outstanding novel, by the way?

He got into it with William F. Buckley, one of the lost saints of the conservative movement. Lots of folks may not remember Buckley, whose works have fallen the half-life of obscurity. But even Buckley’s novels (and his spy novels weren’t half bad) pale in comparison to Vidal’s writing, which stay on the bookshelves - an unpardonable sin where Buckleyites are concerned. During one TV debate Vidal called Buckley a Nazi, and the saint of the right-wing responded by calling him a queer.

Out of kindness, perhaps we should overlook the most rabid paragraph of the editorial, when the bizarre line appears “ . . . the merely queer have an integrity and propriety Gore Vidal could never aspire to even at his most ambitious.” Wow.

Rather than follow the lead of the hysterical editorial, readers might explore writings of Gore Vidal for themselves. And when they do, they will realize that we have lost more than a great writer.

Gore Vidal was one of those writers who taught us the importance of wit, something that not only the world is in short supply of, but this particular editorial could have used bucket loads of. All too often we open to the letters section in the paper (or even Facebook) and encounter a leaden daily barrage of political outrage or immature insults directed at people.

Ironically, it’s about the time of year when the ADG runs its annual “Hey, Kids! Let’s Change the name of Labor Day to John Galt Day!”

This is insulting on two levels. The first, of course, is that it diminishes the contribution of the working class in the country, and the second, which is an insult to everybody, is that the ADG idolizes a character created by Ayn Rand, a truly, truly horrible writer.

******

The late Matt Turner, former anchor of KNWA

It was a shock this morning to open the paper and read of the death of Matt Turner, former anchor of KNWA. Turner died in a traffic accident this weekend.

I always appreciated watching Matt Turner, especially in an age when so many anchors grin, giggle and guffaw their way through the news.

Since his arrival at KTHV in Little Rock, Turner had hosted debates for congressional and senate races in addition to anchoring the news.

*****

Quote of the Day

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.” — Ana├»s Nin

sdrake@cox.net

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